Star Wars is a big part of why I write for GeekDad. If Tolkien kickstarted a love of fantasy, Star Wars had already set the science fiction engine running. My love of Warhammer turned into a love of painting and a love of Star Wars meant I was always going to end up buying Imperial Assault.
In my interview with Sorastro, I mention the key role his videos played in my reconnecting with painting as a hobby, but what about my reasons for painting Star Wars miniatures?
The connection for me is the bringing together my love of the films and the nostalgia of my childhood Star Wars action figure collection. Imperial Assault contains a large number of characters and models that don’t feature in the trilogy, and I’m not sure I’ve painted any of these yet. The thrill for me is adding life and color to characters of the film.
The Stormtroopers were the first models I tackled. It was also the first time I had tried using thin layers of paint to build up the intensity of color for the highlights. I’d never heard of such a technique before. I was old school; base coat, shade, and drybrush.
Following on from the Stormtroopers, were my childhood favorites, the Emperor’s Guard. I loved the sheer white helmets of the Snowtroopers in Empire, but the shiny reflective red and flowing robes of the Guard in Return of the Jedi were wonderful.
To paint those figures was extremely rewarding. The red required for the Guards’ robes is very forgiving, and an excellent way of learning how to highlight using thin layers of paint. Here, also, a red glaze is your friend. I’d never quite seen the point of a glaze up and until painting the Imperial Guard, but it worked wonders. The glaze brings a homogenized look to the figures, smoothing over any blemishes and imperfections.
Buoyed by the success of the Imperial Guard, I thought I’d try to tackle Darth Vader. The opportunity to try to paint a lightsaber was simply too much to pass up.
I was moderately successful. Learning to shade the varieties of black, and thinking about differing reflectivities is a steep learning curve.The lightsaber too was a challenge but I just about painted it to look how I wanted. One thing I did learn when finishing Vader, was to be careful with the amount of ‘Ardcoat (Citadels glossy primer) used. My Vader doesn’t so much look like his suit is made of hard plastic, but more like he’s about to take part in an olive oil wrestling competition.
Painting became a central spoke in my life after that. The pinnacle possibly coming with Boba Fett. Like many Star Wars fans, Boba is one of my favorite characters. To paint that iconic suit of armor, and even add battered weathering, which thanks to Sorastro, actually looks pretty good, was an absolute joy. I find the whole process of painting meditative; almost something bordering on mindfulness. Particularly layering and highlights. I find the repeated application of paint, building up the intensity as I go, unexpectedly restful. It frees the mind to process life’s hurly-burly, whilst at the same time, (hopefully) producing something that looks great too.
Since Boba, I’ve added Luke, Leia, C3P0, and R2D2 to my collection. I’ve even painted an ATST, my favorite vehicle from the movies. Each one gives a little frisson of excitement as I paint them. To be gently, carefully, trying to replicate the look and feel of the movies gives me a deep sense of satisfaction; a link back through 40 years of fandom. When I finished Boba and the strong shining gold of C3P0, I felt not only a sense of accomplishment but also ownership of a small part of the great movie tradition that is Star Wars.
My painted Imperial Assault figures mean so much more to me than my X-Wing figures. The X-Wing ships, whilst great, come painted. There is no personal connection. My Imperial Assault miniatures mean more than my Warhammer figures because they have a connection to something wider. A shared experience with countless geeks across the globe, whose childhoods were filled with the events of a galaxy far far away.
I’ve never even played Imperial Assault, but I love it. I long for miniatures from all of the films (well maybe not “all” the films.) I want Finn, Rey, and Poe. I want Mon Mothma, Jyn Urso and K-2SO. I want to paint New Order Stormtroopers and Shoretroopers and above all, I want to paint Baze and Chirrut. I’m one with the paint and the paint is with me.
For the last month or so, I’ve been obsessively checking the release schedule of the latest IA blister packs, waiting to order Hera and Chopper. My whole family loves Star Wars: Rebels and I can’t wait to start painting the first two releases from Phoenix Squadron. I won’t even begin to describe how excited I am about the release of Ahsoka Tano, Q3 this year!
If you haven’t tried painting your Imperial Assault figures yet, I thoroughly recommend giving it a go. It brings a whole new way of looking at the imagery and iconography of the films. The colors used and the beaten weathered look of characters and setting. You’ve never really looked at R2D2 until you’ve tried to paint him. Having painted miniatures on the table always improves the gaming experience, but in the case of Star Wars: Imperial Assault, it enriches and is enriched by forty years of the greatest film saga in history.